The Innovation Process – 7 Deadly Sins

From this months Research World magazine, Franziska Wulff (Managing Director of Research International in Hamburg) looks at the innovation process and what can hinder it.

Developing new ideas, driving the innovation process forward, motivating employees to look outside the box – these guidelines can be found in every marketing manager’s bible. The ability of a company to renew itself is an understanding with a high susceptibility to failure. The famous grain of sand in the machine is frequently to blame when the innovation process hits the buffers. This could be thought of as a deadly sin, as it is often only a wrong word or an omission that causes good ides to run aground.

But where does the term “Deadly Sinâ€? come from? In the sixth century, Pope Gregory elevated greed, envy, sloth, wrath, gluttony, pride and lust to the nobility of the deadly sins.

Greed: “I want everythingâ€?
Striving to penetrate new markets through innovation is legitimate. However, if this leads to ideas being sought only in terms of breadth and not depth, Greed quickly loses sight of the goal. The can lead, for example, to line extensions damaging rather than helping your parent brand. Us scientist and Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling says, “The trick of having good ideas is to come up with a lot of ideas and then throw out the bad onesâ€?.

Envy: “I long to be able to do what they can doâ€?
Anyone wanting to impede the innovation process of his company wastes his energy on squinting at his neighbour’s land. Egotistic Envy manoeuvres himself into a “Me Tooâ€? situation by copying his competitor’s product, rather than being clear about the goals of his brand. Despite the immense pressure to innovate, innovations should also be based on self-confidence.

Sloth: “We’ve always done it that wayâ€?
“Business as usualâ€? can allow the right moment for necessary renewals to disappear off the radar screen. Sloth may be present in the team, but refuses to cooperate. This “inertia phenomenonâ€?, or being too lazy to think, chokes development-orientated work and in the worst case spreads like a virus.

Wrath: “None of these ideas inspires meâ€?
Of all the sins, Wrath is the most deadly. It signifies negativity and rejection in the innovation process. Of course, not every idea is good, and a selection of them is needed at a certain point in time. However, rejecting an idea is quite different from assessing it carefully, and therefore treating it with respect. Not only can the negative energy of Wrath lower group morale, it can eve n entirely disrupt the positive flow of a round of innovation.

Gluttony: “I would have expected even moreâ€?
Gluttony is considered a sin, because it goes hand in hand with a lack of discipline. This shortfall can be seen in the way Gluttony creates an atmosphere of reduced esteem, demanding performance levels from team members that no-one can live up to. Creativity and discipline should not be treated as opposites, because the total creativity requires keeping the goal in focus.

Pride: “My idea is the bestâ€?
As the process of coming up with ideas continues, it is only too easy to cling to certain ideas. Refusing to change one’s preferences or even throw them away can cause the entire process to stutter or come off the rails. This always happens when Pride values his own ideas higher than others.

And finally – Lust: “Just a moment, I’ve got another idea…â€?
Lust might be a sin in the religious sense. However it is a plus point in the innovation process – as long as Lust gives others sufficient room and listens to them attentively. Ultimately, this deadly sin can even transform into a cardinal virtue.

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